Ex­er­cise ‘not key to obe­sity fight’

Lesotho Times - - Health -

LON­DON — Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity has lit­tle role in tack­ling obe­sity — and in­stead public health mes­sages should squarely fo­cus on un­healthy eat­ing, doc­tors say.

In an ed­i­to­rial in the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Sports Medicine, three in­ter­na­tional ex­perts said it was time to “bust the myth” about ex­er­cise.

They said while ac­tiv­ity was a key part of staving off dis­eases such as di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and de­men­tia, its im­pact on obe­sity was min­i­mal.

In­stead ex­cess sugar and car­bo­hy­drates were key.the ex­perts, in­clud­ing Lon­don car­di­ol­o­gist Dr Aseem Mal­ho­tra, blamed the food in­dus­try for en­cour­ag­ing the be­lief that ex­er­cise could coun­ter­act the im­pact of un­healthy eat­ing.

They even likened their tac­tics as “chill­ingly sim­i­lar” to those of Big Tobacco on smok­ing and said celebrity endorsements of sug­ary drinks and the as­so­ci­a­tion of junk food and sport must end.

They said there was ev­i­dence that up to 40 per­cent of those within a nor­mal weight range will still har­bour harm­ful meta­bolic ab­nor­mal­i­ties typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with obe­sity.

But de­spite this public health mes­sag­ing had “un­help­fully” fo­cused on main­tain­ing a healthy weight through calo­rie count­ing when it was the source of calo­ries that mat­tered most — re­search has shown that di­a­betes in­creases 11-fold for ev­ery 150 ad­di­tional sugar calo­ries con­sumed com­pared to fat calo­ries.

And they pointed to ev­i­dence from the Lancet global bur­den of dis­ease pro­gramme which shows that un­healthy eat­ing was linked to more ill health than phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, al­co­hol and smok­ing com­bined.

‘Un­sci­en­tific’ Dr Mal­ho­tra said: “An obese per­son does not need to do one iota of ex­er­cise to lose weight, they just need to eat less. My big­gest con­cern is that the mes­sag­ing that is com­ing to the public sug­gests you can eat what you like as long as you ex­er­cise.

“That is un­sci­en­tific and wrong. You can­not out­run a bad diet.”

But oth­ers said it was risky to play down the role of ex­er­cise. Prof Mark Baker, of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Health and Care Ex­cel­lence, which rec­om­mends “well-bal­anced di­ets com­bined with phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity”, said it would be “id­i­otic” to rule out the im­por­tance of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Ian Wright, direc­tor gen­eral at Food and Drink Fed­er­a­tion, said: “The benefits of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity aren’t food in­dus­try hype or con­spir­acy, as sug­gested. A healthy life­style will in­clude both a bal­anced diet and ex­er­cise.”

He said the in­dus­try was en­cour­ag­ing a bal­anced diet by vol­un­tar­ily pro­vid­ing clear on-pack nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion and of­fer­ing prod­ucts with ex­tra nu­tri­ents and less salt, sugar and fat.

“This ar­ti­cle ap­pears to un­der­mine the ori­gins of the ev­i­dence-based gov­ern­ment public health ad­vice, which must surely be con­fus­ing for con­sumers,” he said. — BBC

Three au­thors ar­gue that the myth that ex­er­cise is the key to weight loss – and to health – is er­ro­neous and per­va­sive.

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